In 1983, racing car driver Stefan Bellof set a Nürburgring lap time of 6 mins 11 secs in his Porsche 956. This record remains unbroken, despite many attempts to do so by some of the biggest names in the automotive industry using the most stratospherically powerful and technologically advanced cars in the world. Despite all of this, a team of ambitious engineering students from the Netherlands plans not only to beat this record with a hybrid racing prototype of their own design, but to go on to race and win at Le Mans in the very same vehicle.
The vehicle planned to perform these feats is dubbed the IM01, and was designed by students from the Technical University of Eindhoven and the Fontys University of Applied Sciences. Powered by four individual electric motors – one per wheel – and fitted with regenerative braking, the car also uses a rotary engine to supply extra energy to charge the on-board batteries.
No details have been released yet as to the power or performance of either the electric motors or the rotary engine, but the team intend to run the engine at a fixed RPM with the intention to provide an ambitious 60 percent efficiency.
In the interim to building the prototype, the student builders plan to use a test vehicle to research the many and varied technologies being developed. This test vehicle – the IM/e – is based on a bio-ethanol sports car concept developed by three recently-graduated engineers, and will be used for extensive prototyping, on-track testing, and proof of engineering concepts.
To start this stage of testing, it is claimed that all the team needs now is for a partner to step in and help fund the project, and work can begin on kitting out the already-molded IM/e body. Once constructed, the group then intends to test it on race tracks and hill climb events in both Germany and Great Britain.
The IM01 concept is certainly an ambitious project, and the student engineers have set themselves some incredibly high targets to achieve with this vehicle. And they won't have any shortage of competition in their class at Le Mans, either; Nissan has been the fastest hybrid around that circuit with its ZEOD RC and Audi took first and second place with its Audi R18 e-tron Quattro there in 2012.
Similar projects to the IM01 with far less lofty ideals have failed to even get off the drawing board, let alone go on to achieve world-beating victories. But if enthusiasm and ambition was all that was needed to win Le Mans, this team's aspirations alone would see them in with a fighting chance.